32.6 million watch opening of Winter Olympics

/ Source: The Associated Press

Television ratings show a strong initial appetite for the Vancouver Olympics on NBC.

The Nielsen Co. said an estimated 32.6 million people watched Friday's opening ceremony. That's up 48 percent from the 22.2 million people who watched the first night of the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Only the Lillehammer games of 1994 — better known as the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Olympics — had a larger U.S. audience for its opening ceremony. Besides the pageantry, Friday's first broadcast also had a big story with the death of a luger during a training run.

The first night in Canada even approached the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games in viewer interest. That ceremony had an average audience of 34.2 million people.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft.)